This is a reread of this book, which I first read about 5 or 6 years ago. This is also me listening to the audiobook read by Grover Gardner, whom I love, but is an acquired taste. He’s the voice of the Vorkosigans for me now. Also, this was inspired by reading Jo Walton’s rereviews of the books in What Makes this book so great? And like with her book, you should expect a lot of these. Spoilers.
The last book previous to this one in terms of publication order is Cetaganda, a book I liked better as an audiobook but feel is one of the weakest in the series. In terms of plot, the previous book is Brothers in Arms, an ironic for a book in which Miles finds out he has a clone trained to kill him.
This complicates matters for this book in which that clone, Mark Vorkosigan, gets his own adventure. To frame this, Mark is only Mark and not a clone because of the Betan policy of seeing clones as kin, since they are still the DNA combination of two sets of parental DNA, created in an alternative fashion, and not just the offshoot of an already existing person. This change in status gives Mark the status as a brother and not a possession. But it becomes clear that this distinction is particular to Beta and not shared across the galaxy. On Jackson’s Whole, for example, the seat of genetic black market clone factories, clones are clones destined for the transplant of an important (rich) person’s brain. On Barryar, they are freaks and outcasts.
Anyway, Mark decides to make a go at rescuing a bunch of clones by impersonating Miles, ends up getting Miles killed (who spends most of the book in a cryo chamber and off-screen), and finally figures out that to be his own person he should gain weight.
This book is Never Let Me Go before Never Let Me Go and is an interesting adventure and by far one of the best of the series.